Understanding Flexible Work Schedules

A flexible work schedule is not a new concept- it has been apart of the workplace fabric for (at least) the past fifteen years. While the definition has evolved over the years, its best understood as a synonym for a picturesque work-life balance.

Everyone wants a balanced work and home life, and companies know this…sort of!

When companies implement the favorable policy that permits employees to lead balance lives its a plus, everybody wins! …except if the people inside the company are not united on defining and/or implementing the work perk.

To be fair, flexible work schedules have evolved over the years in an attempt to keep pace with technological advances and a uniquely diverse workforce. Very often, the work perk is implemented company-wide in an effort to remain attractive to top talent and current employees. Unfortunately, it falls short —particularly when the discovery is made that the true decision to implement the policy rests with the head of the department and/or supervisor.

Typically, the reveal is not made until the employee is already on the job.  The explanation for the disconnect is usually buried in phrases that fall along the line of decisions being left up to “the discretion of” the head of the department/supervisor, and/or is “dependent upon business needs” — all of which is understandable to some degree.

But again, falling short – the realization is that the alluring work perk is sold as a guarantee, but is actually far from it. This is particularly shocking for those who are entering the workplace for the first time or reentering after an extended leave. For those of us who have had this type of experience with flexible schedules in the past, this is a sore spot- so tread lightly!. What we can all agree on is that its a frustrating experience.

The best way to combat the situation is to protect yourself, and not wait until you are on the job to start piecing together how, or if the organization interprets flexible work schedules.

Start today.  Think critically about what a flexible work schedule means to you. How do you ensure that you are going to be able to take advantage of it once you are on the job and how to use the time wisely. Start with these two nuggets/ food for thought:

  1. A flexible work schedule is a work perk that companies have been offering for years. If they offer it, the next question is, do they live by it? You can find this out during the interview by paying attention to cues and clues that state their flexible work program and policy. If they live by it, they will probably talk about it. If it doesn’t come up organically (because we are all human, and sometimes we forget stuff) —ask about it. There is no harm in asking, especially since this is not a newly introduced idea.  It might sound a bit wordy, but ask if the organization and the department your interviewing for, support the perk. Even if you don’t get the “right” answer back, give yourself credit for asking!
  1. While everyone seems to have their idea about flexible work schedules, it’s important to keep in mind what your definition is. This connects directly to personal time management. Ask yourself – if given the opportunity, what does your ideal work schedule look like? While you may not be able to implement all of your ideas once on the job, the bigger picture is that you spend quality, time- seriously developing your ideal work schedule.

Once you have a plan or even some bullet points listed for how you would like to manage your home and work life – be sure to write it down. By writing it down you will be committing it to memory, and by posting it somewhere visible it is going to serve as a guide to help you use your time wisely and apply for the right jobs. This will serve as your guide to the right job for you.

Flexible work schedules are a work perk that carries a lot of weight as its definition is assumed, and at times overlooked.  Take the next couple of minutes to daydream a little. what you come back with is going to help you get, and stay focused on the interview and on the job search.  Get some conversation around this with your family, friends, and colleagues- and learn from them.

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